Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) is the first to apply for a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) leaseto install and operate small-scale, experimental marine turbines some 15 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, smack in the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful Gulf Stream current.
The BOEM lease application is the latest in a long series of steps FAU and its Center of Ocean Energy Technology (COET) have taken in conjunction with federal government agencies to evaluate the potential of tapping into the Gulf Stream to generate clean, renewable baseload electricity.
The recently established Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of the Dept. of Interior, on April 24 moved forward the FAU Gulf Stream ocean energy initiative by opening its environmental review of FAU’s application to lease Atlantic ocean waters to test marine hydrokinetic technology — read marine turbines — for public review and comment.
Profiling the Gulf Stream’s Marine Energy Potential
Aiming to map the spatial and temporal energy potential across a section of the Gulf Stream off the southeast Florida coast, FAU’s Center for Ocean Energy Technology (COET) installed moorings for four acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP) in April 2009, the first step in COET’s plan to create a national open-ocean energy laboratory (NOEL).
Installed in the Atlantic some 7.8 kms (4.9 mi) to 35.9 kms (22.3 mi) off Dania Beach at depths between 221 meters (725 ft) to 645m (2,116 ft), the four ADCPs employ high-frequency, low-power sonar to measure current velocity throughout the water column at single locations every 30 minutes for up to eight months, FAU’s COET explained.
“The deployment of the ADCPs is a major milestone for Florida Atlantic University, and our research and development efforts to utilize energy from the Gulf Stream as a source of renewable energy,” FAU President Frank T. Brogan stated at the time.
“Deployment of the ADCPs will help us to gather baseline data that will guide the subsequent phases and support our near-term science, environmental and resource assessment and technology development,” added COET executive director Susan Skemp. “Once we have collected and reviewed the data, we plan to share this information with interested government agencies, academic partners and companies.”
In 2010, the DOE designated FAU’s COET the third national center for ocean energy research and development, establishing it as the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC).
With the April 24 announcement of its BOEM lease, SNMREC/COET is now moving forward to the next step in its Gulf Stream marine energy plan: deploying a variety of experimental marine turbines in order to “inform the future deployment of commercial-scale marine hydrokinetic energy production on the OCS (outer continental shelf),” the BOEM explains in a press release.
Potential Source of Renewable, Baseload Electrical Power
“Ocean currents contain an enormous amount of energy, and moving forward to test this new energy frontier offers exciting potential to expand our renewable energy portfolio,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “In this stage of the process, we are providing opportunities for public input on the potential environmental effects of deploying this technology for testing activities.”
Whereas there’s a dearth of wind energy potential in the southeastern US, there’s a comparative abundance of marine renewable energy potential. And marine energy has certain advantages over wind energy in terms of its renewable energy resource potential. As highlighted in the article, “Gulf Stream Energy Compared to Wind,” capacity factors for Gulf Stream energy are far higher than the 20%-30% typical for wind turbines (note, though, that new onshore wind turbines are achieving capacity factors of over 50%).
“Because the Gulf Stream is driven by our planet’s spinning on its axis and the steady trade winds, its flow rate off of South Florida is nearly constant. Properly placed water turbines having the same rated capacity as the aforementioned wind machines should have capacity factors of between 75 and 95 percent.
“Because of these much higher capacity factors, the actual output for the Gulf Stream Turbine, having the same rated capacity, should be between 14,201,702 and 19,273,752 kilowatt-hours per year – or about three times more than that produced by the wind turbines in the nation’s best locations” (note: the final comment isn’t using newer wind turbine capacity factors).
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